Monday night I met with the team over at Notion Theory, a fantastic design shop that specializes in being a CTO for-hire (among many other amazing specialties!) I spoke to them about my virtual guidance counseling idea. They could have quoted me an outrageous amount of money to build a proof-of-concept. Instead, they said it could be done for $0 and I could do it myself in a few hours with free online tools. Sure, it will be a little manual but for MVP, it can be hacked together. What I really need to focus on is finding a couple of schools with a small amount of students who are willing to let me test the idea on them. I think it’s pretty amazing for a design shop to tell me that right now I don’t need to pay them a cent. The time for a slick seamless interface will come, but right now I just need to find people who want my help. Given how much need there is, I can get started right away with what I’ve got.
I’m a voracious list maker, mostly because it helps me to remain accountable for moving my ideas forward. Since the weekend, I’ve been making a list of things I need to do to test out my new business ideas for on-demand and virtual guidance counseling for students. So far, I have a few to-dos on the books and they are:
I will say that I’m loving every moment of this. I’m loving it so much in fact that it doesn’t even seem like work. And that, my friends, is the point. We should find something that we love to do so much that the time flies and it makes us feel alive and free.
I’m so tired of the acceptance that zip code is destiny. My entire life is a rejection of that belief, and I will keep rejecting it until I’m out of breath and out of strength. Somewhere along the way, our society decided that a child born into difficulty on the south side of Chicago won’t have the same chance to rise to their potential as a child born with every privilege on the south side of Central Park. Is the life of that child in Chicago any less valuable that the life of that child in New York? I don’t think so. I know you don’t think so either. So let’s change that, together. Let’s stack the odds in favor of all kids everywhere.
There are too many kids who are cold, and tired, and hungry, and frustrated. There are too many kids who don’t see a way up and out of their circumstances because no one they know ever got up or out. Imagine what our world would be like if every child alive right now got everything they needed to grow up healthy, educated, kind, and confident. That’s the image I hold in my mind as I think about ways to offer virtual and on-demand guidance counseling to kids across the country, and eventually across the globe. It’s a big vision, a big dream, and our kids deserve nothing less. They have to know that somewhere out in the world, there is an adult who believes in them, who is holding a light for them so that they can find their way forward even in the darkest of times. To that child, that one light can make all the difference. And that’s worth fighting for.
“Do not just slay your demons; dissect them and find out what they’ve been feeding on.” ~ The Man Frozen in Time
Even the most well-adjusted, confident, and kind people have occasional thoughts and feelings in which they feel less-than. I don’t need to look any further than my mirror to find someone who fits that bill. And while I can play the game of fake it ’til I make it with the best of them, the most effective treatment I’ve found is to really get at the root of my own negative self-talk. Hack away at that root, and there is so much more freedom and joy that gets unlocked.
For example, whenever I’m searching for a new job opportunity, I read the role description and if I don’t fit one bullet my first reaction is to move on. I’ve learned that this is a direct result of my inner perfectionist (which causes plenty of other challenges for me, but let’s just stick to this one for now.) If I can’t do something 99.9% perfectly, I’m obsessing about that 0.1%.
As an adult, I’ve learned to constantly put myself in the role of being a beginner to counter this. Along the way, I have grown my skill sets, met incredible people, traveled to stunning places, and dare I say it, become a recovering perfectionist. I don’t know that I’m ever going to completely get rid of that perfection instinct, but I do know that I control it now and it doesn’t control me. I’ve learned to congratulate myself for trying something new, even when it’s a complete disaster. I’ve learned to be my own best cheerleader and my own best company. I’ve learned to value my strengths and to no longer fear failure.
And as for those job applications, I send them off. I don’t take myself out of the running for anything that sounds interesting to me. My friend, Brooke, once told me years ago that we are all born knowing nothing. We all start at zero. We learn everything we need to learn just by going through life . And that process never stops, so why stop ourselves? Now that’s what I call slaying a demon and then eating its lunch.
Need a feel-good story to fill your heart today? Here’s one. This 5th grade basketball team voted unanimously to forfeit the rest of their season because they refused to play without the two girls who are on their team. This is what unity and equality look like. So proud of these kids! Warning: you’ll need a tissue when you read the details in the article. It will bring tears to your eyes in the best possible way.
I took this picture at the Women’s March in D.C. and it’s a strong reminder to me of what we’re fighting for now. This is the future. This is where we’re going. This is why we standup and raise our voices.
“How many lives is a man-cub worth?” ~Shere Khan
After I saw it was nominated for a number of awards, I watched the live action version of The Jungle Book that was released this year. I can’t help but think about what a powerful allegory it is for our times. A community of wolves, loving and faithful to one another, protected a member of their pack, Mowgli, who was different. All they wanted was peace and acceptance for everyone. The member of their community who was different posed no threat to anyone, and yet a dictatorial tiger, Shere Khan, demanded that Mowgli be turned over to him to be destroyed. Mowgli left of his own volition for the sake of the pack, and still he was pursued by Shere Khan. On his way to the man-village where he will supposedly be protected and accepted, Mowgli makes friends who help him defeat Shere Khan.
Would we have the courage to protect someone who was different? Would we have the courage to standup for ourselves when faced with bigotry? When the moment comes to fight for what we believe in, would we back down in fear or would we rise and stand tall against injustice?
The Jungle Book is a story written for children, but its lessons have far-reaching implications for all of us. Literature is both a mirror and a teacher. It shows us what we’re made of. It gives us something to aspire to. It inspires us to become greater than we think we can be.
Art is endlessly generous: if we rescue it, then it will rescue us. In dark and troubling times, it’s easy and understandable to be consumed by sadness and despair. What’s more difficult, and ultimately more valuable, is to be a light to ourselves and to others. The husband and wife who wrote the beloved books about Curious George smuggled him out of Nazi-occupied France on two homemade bicycles made in the 11th hour of their escape. George’s narrow escape from a variety of curious and mischievous adventures, often by bicycle, is in no small part a colorful corollary to the flight of his authors. Karen Blixen once said that all sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story. It’s true of George and it’s true of us. We can create our way to a better tomorrow.
I’ve been trying to understand what’s happening in Syria and why it began. If you’re curious about this, too, here is the story in a very brief nutshell; it’s a sad, twisted, and cautionary tale of graffiti by children, an ego-maniacal President, and the danger of silently normalizing hideous behavior.
5 years ago Syrian civilians decided to peacefully protest after 15 schoolchildren were arrested – and reportedly tortured – for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall. Government forces opened fired on the protesters killing 4 people. Then they open fired on the mourners at the funerals of those 4 people the following day killing 1 more person.
The people then rose up to meet violence with violence. About 3 years later an organization calling itself IS for Islamic State got involved. Taking advantage of the chaos and desperation, IS escalated the matter even further by retaliating against anyone who didn’t hold IS’s extreme religious views. Then Russia uses its muscle to support the Syrian government, the US and UK make some attempts to support the rebels, some countries slowly crack open the door to welcome Syrian refugees, and the vast majority of the rest of the world sits on its hands, waits, and watches as hundreds of thousands of innocent people are murdered without cause or reason.
Here we are 5 years later and some estimates state that roughly 500,000 people have been killed. All because Syria’s government felt threatened by the graffiti of children and the calls of its people for greater freedom of expression and democracy. It defies reason and any semblance of sanity. This is the damage that one man can cause. This is what the ego, when left unchecked, can do to an entire nation of people. Let that sink in.
Yesterday as I was taking the bus to drop off Phineas at daycare, a little girl and her mother sat next to us. There was something about this little girl. She was so full of light. When she smiled her whole body smiled.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Your dog is so cute!”
She giggled with her mom, spotted her teacher on the bus, and gave her infant sister a kiss. This little girl was magnetic. There was clearly a lot of love between her and her mom.
On my way home from work, I saw this same little girl. She recognized me and Phineas. She still sparkled but a little less so now. She had 3 of her cousins and her aunt with her. One of the cousins was trying to tell her mother that one of her teachers said she had a real gift for painting. The mother barely paid attention to her.
All of the kids were very interested in Phineas and had lots of questions about him, which I was happy to answer. Their aunt was not thrilled about them talking to me. She yelled at them several times, and made more eye contact with the game on her phone than with any of the kids she was supposed to be watching.
As it turned out, we all got out at the same stop. They live just across the street from me in a housing project. There was something about that made me so sad, and then it made me angry. Here was this amazing little girl, so clearly bright and in love with life, and she deserves to have that light honored and supported.
While I understand that children are resilient, I also know that what is said to them, or not said to them, makes a world of difference as they grow up and become adults. Listen to children. Honor them. Respect them. Understand that every action and every word we express now has such an outsized impact on them. They need us and we need them if we’re going to build a better world. And a better world is what we all deserve.